Fashion today absolutely adores model/actress Hari Nef, and with good reason. Nef, whose angular face and impeccable style have garnered her significant praise, is more importantly spearheading the swelling transgender movement so that one day it won’t be called a “movement,” as if it’s some fleeting trend.
An unstoppable force in NYC this week, Nef proudly opened NYFW on the VFiles catwalk wearing a “Girl Power” hoodie; she kept it cute on the set of Degen’s whimsical presentation, joined Adam Selman’s crew of ’60s bad girls and supported rising designer Vejas at his Johannes Vogt Gallery breakout.
We caught up Nef during NYFW to talk about all things fashion.
You’ve been busy this fashion week. How do you prepare for these major runway gigs?
“I try to be kind to my body. I’m an actor, so I’m used to treating my body like an instrument. I go to the gym and eat my veggies; I sleep; I show up with a clean face, clean hair with my legs freshly shaven. Fashion Week bookings can be so last minute, so self care has become a practice—Mel Ottenberg texted me about Adam Selman’s show the night before.”
How do you feel about fashion’s current fixation on the transgender movement?
“I’m starting to feel like there’s more press about, ‘fashion’s fixation on the transgender movement,’ than there is actual fixation. How many trans models have appeared in a major runway or campaign in the last few years? Which fashion institution is taking up the cause of trans rights or the relief for homeless trans teens? Fashion is having a moment with gender fluidity, but not necessarily transness. Designers are presenting masculinity as an option for women and vice versa. That’s not ontology, that’s aesthetics, but transness goes deeper than that. Transness is not a destination.”
Do you think fashion is taking advantage of the transgender movement?
“Fashion loves to be first, fashion hates to repeat itself and fashion has seasonal expiration dates. The rise of trans visibility has spread ideas and aesthetics that are quite new for most the world. Trans folks are in the process of seizing justice and visibility—it is an urgent matter of life or death. In fashion, this kind of urgency translates to ‘what’s now.’ I think trans visibility is generally a positive thing and fashion could prove to be a fabulous platform for us. I’m uncertain as to whether ‘what’s now’ will become integrated into the norms, or merely be written off as ‘last season.’ Ultimately, I want to see trans folks taking their place in the fashion world in a way that doesn’t feel like such a big deal.”
What is New York fashion doing well and how can we improve?
“I don’t necessarily relate to a lot of New York fashion because I don’t necessarily relate to most women buying clothes in department stores. New York fashion provides a supportive stage for young designers, more so than any other city. The VFILES Made Fashion Show is one of the grooviest events on the calendar. That being said, I feel like New York is more susceptible to trends than any other city. I find it hard to distinguish between most New York designers. How many times are we going to see a black turtleneck with matching slacks and white Stan Smith knockoffs? How many more slip dress-and-sweater propositions for evening? How many more Céline silhouettes in Wintour-approved colors? New York needs a confidence boost.”
What was it like being dressed by Rihanna stylist Mel Ottenberg for Adam Selman’s AW ’15 presentation?
“I’ve worked with a lot of stylists who projected visions onto me that didn’t feel comfortable, modern or honest. With Mel, it was different. When I came to the studio for a fitting, he confessed that a few of the dresses in the collection were inspired by what he and Adam had seen me wear on Instagram. When he showed me the clothes and described the runway set, I rattled off some references that were actually on the mood board. Maybe we just get each other.”
What’re your tips for surviving an insane schedule during NYFW?
“NYFW has a lot to offer, but you can’t take all of it. It’s good to have a game plan and low expectations. I used to want to go to all the parties, so I did that and didn’t sleep. This time I was more focused on working/collaborating, so here I am at home on a big party night so I can do homework and get some rest before the show I’m walking tomorrow. People get so thirsty at fashion week, like every show or party is the last one ever. It’s important to remember that NYFW happens twice a year, and there’s always next time. If you ditch the party or don’t book the show, it’s honestly fine.”
What shows have you enjoyed so far this season?
“I’m so proud of my friend Vejas, who showed in New York for the first time this season. His casting was directional, the imagery urgent and the clothes seriously lux. Timo Weiland and Creatures of the Wind offered drama that didn’t feel loud. Altuzarra was sexy as fuck. Also, I’m Goth girl at heart, so Alexander Wang struck a chord inside me that hasn’t been plucked since My Chemical Romance dropped Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge in 2004.”